The European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner, Catherine Ashton, is expected to visit the Southern African region starting Monday and ending on Thursday, European Commission (EC) delegation in Gaborone announced Tuesday.
A statement said that Ashton will be visiting Botswana, South Africa and other regional countries.
“She will hold talks with key government leaders with a view to moving forward the bilateral and region-to-region trade relationships.┬á A key goal of the visit is to discuss the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with Southern African countries,” the EC noted.┬á
Discussions are currently ongoing between the 78 members’ states of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region and the EU on EPAs regime to replace the Continuo Agreement that expired at the end of 2007. While the rest of SADC has initialled the Interim EPA agreement, South Africa has not done so in a bid to protect its infant industries.
“Aside from meeting government leaders from South Africa and Botswana, Commissioner Ashton will also have a joint meeting with Angolan, Namibian, and South African (ANSA) ministers while in South Africa and a meeting with ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) while in Botswana,” the statement added.
The statement quoted Ashton as saying: “I want to engage with Southern African countries so that we can all gain more from our economic relationship.┬á I am particularly committed to discussing South Africa’s concerns over our Economic Partnership Agreement while in Cape Town. I am keen to express our commitment to regional integration.”
It is expected that Ashton will spend the 9th and 10th of February in Cape Town, where she will meet with South African Trade Minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa, and Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.┬á
She will also meet with the group of ANSA (Angola, Namibia, and South Africa) ministers, as well as representatives from the South African parliament and civil society.┬á
The EPA negotiations with members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) group of countries were launched in 2004.
In 2007, South Africa joined as an official member of the “SADC EPA” Group.┬á An interim EPA was initialled at the end of 2007 with Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique.┬á Angola can join the agreement, but as a Least Developed Country (LDC) in the meantime maintains full market access through the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) provision.┬á┬á
The EU and South Africa signed the Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement (TDCA) in 1999. The objective of the TDCA is to create a free-trade area between South Africa and the EU over a period of 12 years, with the EU opening its market at a faster pace.┬á